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People in Film | Gus Van Sant
Updated May 26, 2010
Gus Van Sant | An American Filmmaker
Co-written by Matt Damon and John Krasinksi, PROMISED LAND tells the story of a small American town struggling with itself, being offered hard cash for drilling rights by a natural gas rep and his assistant (played by Matt Damon and Frances McDormand) while, at the same time, being challenged to do better by a mysterious eco-activist (John Krasinski), who suddenly appears in town. For Gus Van Sant, who over the last few decades has focused on unique and powerful, often untold, American stories, the subject matter was very attractive. “America is a big place and we are all part of it, so it’s hard to really get a grasp on our identity sometimes," Van Sant commented, “What I loved about John and Matt’s screenplay is that they tackled big issues but with a lot of humor and humility. It’s a story about real people, with all their foibles as well as their greatness.” Understanding perfectly the wondrous imperfection of his characters defines Van Sant’s filmmaker, as does the way such imperfect people come together to form friendships, relationships and communities. In his filmmaking, Van Sant not only showcases new talent that he wants to share – like, for example, his use of songs by the band Milk Carton Kids in PROMISED LAND –– but also creates a community of creative people he continually works with. PROMSIED LAND reunites him, for example, with Matt Damon, with whom he’d previously directed in Good Will Hunting and collaborated with on Gerry. “When you work together you become friends and you wonder what else you can do together again and Matt and I became friends,” Van Sant told Movieline. If Van Sant often returns to the need for community in America, as he does so poignantly in PROMISED LAND, one suspects that he recreates that community in the cast and crew he works with on each film.
Updated May 24, 2010
FilmInFocus takes a closer look at one of the stars of The Kids Are All Right, Mark Ruffalo.
A Classic Sensibility
Ten years ago, The Kids Are All Right star Mark Ruffalo exploded onto the American independent movie scene with his remarkable performance as Laura Linney’s damaged brother Terry in writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s poignant drama You Can Count on Me (2000). Critics were immediately placed Ruffalo in a great tradition of American screen actors. Variety’s Emanuel Levy said that “Ruffalo's part brings to mind the outsiders played by Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster and William Holden,” while Stephen Holden of the New York Times said that “Mr. Ruffalo's star-making performance deserves to be added to the list of charismatic, grownup lost boys that includes the Marlon Brando of A Streetcar Named Desire and the Jack Nicholson of Easy Rider.” Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers also drew lofty comparisons, writing that “stage actor Ruffalo scores a breakthrough, giving his role an intimate intensity that bears comparison to early Brando and the late James Dean.”
Movie City: Cannes
Updated May 19, 2010
Cannes | Bright Sun and Dark Rooms
Cannes, nestled comfortably on France’s Côte d'azur, with wooded hills to its back and the blue Mediterranean Sea before it, provides its resident population of 70,000 a strikingly beautiful home. In the 19th century, Lady Margaret Brewster described her impressions: “the sea so exquisitely blue—the sky so bright and cloudless—the rich sun upon the gleaming white houses so lovely….Cannes is the loveliest of all lovely places.” And yet Cannes is most famous being the place people come to sit in dark rooms. During May, its population balloons to over double as the world film community descends, black tie in hand, for the Cannes Film Festival. For Focus Features, Cannes remains an essential date on the film calendar, whether it is to screen films in competition, like Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock in 2009, or to sell films at the film market. Each Focus Features International unveils a remarkable slate of finished and in-production films to offer global markets.
The Comedy of Marriage
Updated May 17, 2010
In anticipation of the release of Lisa Cholodenko’s comedy The Kids Are All Right, FilmInFocus’ Peter Bowen and Nick Dawson look at works across multiple mediums that also poke fun at the institution of marriage.
Writer-director Lisa Cholodenko’s comedy The Kids Are All Right tells the story of a lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), whose two teenage children contact their sperm-donor birth father (Mark Ruffalo) and, as they say in the business, hilarity ensues. Part of the fun is how Cholodenko mines marriage for all its comic potential: “Go easy on the wine, hon, it’s daytime,” says Moore to Bening, who shoots back, “OK, same goes for the micromanaging.” So what’s so funny about marriage? It turns out the better question is what isn’t. The following slideshow looks at this funny institution in Mozart’s 18th century The Marriage of Figaro and Wycherly’s Restoration comedy The Country Wife, as well as films (like The Thin Man and Frankie & Johnny Are Married), TV shows (from The Honeymooners to It’s All Relative) and even comic strips (Blondie).
Updated May 13, 2010
Meet the man who wrote the music for the Focus Features movies Babies and Coraline.
The Paris-born composer Bruno Coulais got his start where most serious modern composers begin: in the conservatory. Studying violin and piano, Coulais expected to become a composer of 20th century classical music, following the path of such inspirations as Stravinsky and Ligeti. But he was detoured out of music school by a film director, Francois Reichenbach, who asked him to score a film about Mexico. Film music is often looked down upon by so-called “serious composers,” and Coulais initially shared that disdain. “I didn’t want to do that – for me, music had to be very pure,” he said. “But when I tried to do a bit of music for him, I discovered the pleasure of writing for pictures, and after I never stopped.”
The ABCs of Babies
Updated May 13, 2010
Babies may be universal, but the way that society and culture has viewed the little darlings has changed through history.
Slide 1: A is For Awesome
Bayar (on the steppes of Mongolia), Hattie (the streets of San Francisco), Mari (the bustle of Tokyo) and Ponijao, shown above, (from the Himba tribal lands in northern Namibia) are the four child stars of the documentary Babies. They help us realize both the singularity of the cultures that shapes each of our lives and the universality of the human condition. It’s nature … and it’s nurture.
Updated May 11, 2010
Annette Bening is an American Actress
Annette Bening may have moved a far distance from her birthplace in Topeka, Kansas, but her characters still contain that non-nonsense straight-talking common sense that is all American. Indeed Nic, the character she plays in Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, shines with American self-reliance and self- confidence. A doctor by profession, Nic is the main breadwinner for her partner Jules (Julianne Moore) and their two kids, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), and is involved (perhaps too much so) in every aspect of her family’s health and well-being. Bening’s own parents were perhaps less in touch with their daughter’s dreams. As Bening recently told Angeleno Magazine, “They never went to movies or talked about show business….I remember when I started doing plays…they would call and ask, ‘What are you doing now?’ I’d say, ‘Tartuffe in San Francisco.’ They’d say, ‘Oh, that’s nice, dear.’”
Updated May 06, 2010
Mia Wasikowska, one of the stars of Focus Features’ The Kids Are All Right, is one of the most exciting emerging actresses of the moment.
Mia Wasikowska is Everywhere
Just one year ago, only the savviest talent spotters would have recognized the name “Mia Wasikowska” among a list of up-and-coming actresses. But having previously appeared in several shorts, television programs and indie features, Wasikowska suddenly is everywhere. She stars as Alice in Tim Burton’s worldwide hit, Alice in Wonderland; was nominated as one of MTV’s 2010 “Best Female Breakout Stars”; plays a lead role in Gus Van Sant’s upcoming Restless; made the cover of Vanity Fair; headlines as another titular heroine in Cary Fukunaga’s upcoming Jane Eyre; and plays the pivotal role of Joni — so named by her lesbian parents after Joni Mitchell — in Lisa Cholodenko’s Focus Features release, The Kids are All Right. And all that before she turns 21. Indeed, Wasikowska’s rapid fame has even caught her by surprise — “It feels really weird seeing me on a movie poster,” she told The Guardian.
Movie City | Tokyo, Japan
Updated May 04, 2010
Tokyo | City of History
Andy Warhol once said, “The most beautiful thing in Tokyo is McDonald's,” but then Warhol had a penchant for saying the unexpected (and apparently really liked McDonald’s). Tokyo, of course, is one of the great metropolitan centers of the world, a vibrant, bustling capital city that is one of the three global financial strongholds, along with New York and London. Originally a humble fishing village known as “Edo” (meaning “estuary,” because it sits in Tokyo Bay), it grew into a military stronghold and the country’s de facto capital, changing its name to Tokyo (meaning “Eastern capital”) when it became Japan’s Imperial capital in 1868.